Article by Sarah Thompson, Director of Communications & Volunteer Mobilization
It's no secret that Americans are struggling to care for their physical health needs and experience and maintain a lifestyle of wellness. In the U.S., 25 states have an adult obesity rate of 30% or more and 29 million people have diabetes. Non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic adults are twice as likely to have diagnosed diabetes as non-Hispanic white adults. And, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
Here in Greater Hartford, the story is no different.
Zoom into Hartford, and the difficulty increases even more. Residents of low-income communities, like our capital city, face significant obstacles to health, including a high level of food insecurity and a lack of access to fresh, nutritious food, poor living and environmental conditions, and limited, affordable fitness programs.
"Our church is situated right in the North End of Hartford," explained April Garner, health ministry president at Phillips Metropolitan CME Church. "The health needs we see in our community are similar to that of many inner cities. This particular section of Hartford is a food desert, meaning there is very limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables within reasonable walking distance. This problem may sound small, but healthy eating is one of the first steps in lowering the risk for other adverse health events such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke."
Merlette Hansel, health and wellness coordinator at Hartford's Citadel of Love, added, "I would describe my neighborhood as a low-income community. There aren't sufficient opportunities to buy healthy, affordable food. The consequences are also clear: less access to healthy food means people in low-income communities suffer more from diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes than those in higher income neighborhoods with easy access to healthy foods."
Urban Alliance's Revitalize initiative helps churches and parachurch organizations reach and serve Hartford residents, to help them improve their nutrition and decrease the prevalence of adverse health conditions related to poor diet, like diabetes and heart disease.
A concentrated effort to get information about free and low-cost health services and incentives to utilize Hartford farmers markets, which allow residents to access fresh and local produce throughout much of the year, into the hands of tens of thousands of people takes place through the Revitalize Community Health Outreach Day, a collaboration of dozens of urban and suburban churches in the Urban Alliance network.
Now in its eighth year, the outreach involves hundreds of volunteers distributing health resource bags in a door-to-door effort. The resource bags also help direct residents to RevitalizeHartford.com, which is updated throughout the year with information about additional resources and services in the city.
This year, the Revitalize Community Health Outreach Day will take place on Saturday, June 9.
Mat Samuelson, pastor at Glastonbury Community Church, shared, "Revitalize [Community Health Outreach] is a great way for us to break the ice between our church, the Hartford community and our fellow brothers and sisters. Glory Chapel International Cathedral has been a great partner for us. They show us incredible hospitality and give us credibility as we minister in their neighborhood. Our ministry in Glastonbury is stronger because of our partnerships in Hartford."
Garner added, "We believe forging partnerships in the community is the best way to reach a wider net, and so the Revitalize Community Health Outreach is integral. Through this collaboration, many different churches and non-profits are able to come together, create networking opportunities, and ultimately share much needed information with the community. Coupled with prayer and meaningful conversations with our neighbors, [it] has a lasting impact."
92-year old Hartford resident and former long-time employee of Hartford Hospital, Annie Walton, received a Revitalize health resource bag that was distributed a Revitalize Community Health Outreach, which included a coupon for $5 of Hartford farmers market produce.
"I cook from scratch because it is much healthier, but it is difficult to access fresh foods because grocery stores are too far," she explained. "The Revitalize coupon I received is wonderful and it would help a lot of people."
This year, the effort will continue with at least another 14,000 health resource bags. So, we're gearing up now.
If your church or ministry organization is in the Urban Alliance network and you're interested in participating in this year's Revitalize Community Health Outreach Day on June 9, at least one volunteer group leader must attend the upcoming orientation. Registration is required by March 26. Contact Angela Colantonio to register or with questions.
Date: Thursday, March 29, 2018
Time: 5:30-7:00pm (dinner provided)
If your church or parachurch organization is not yet in the Urban Alliance network but you'd like to participate in Revitalize initiative, or if you have information about valuable free health resources in Hartford that could be shared during the outreach, contact Angela Colantonio.